Just as the tiniest snowfall maddens children with a desire to ruin their church-going shoes, so does the flimsiest of pretexts serve as reason for the typist to pop off in favor of a national championship playoff in college football. Today's Heisman Trophy presentation is flimsy enought. A little chatter first . . .
Those suffering souls hooked on sports on television watched the Heisman Trophy show last year. It was midweek and Howard Cosell was nowhere to be heard and what's a guy to do when he needs to see a football in his living room? So we watched Connie Steven dance around the Heisman Trophy. She even sang to it. Connie Stevens! Forgive us,ususAmos Alonzo Stagg, for mighty is the humiliation of addiction.
Bronko Nagurski in a tutu would have raised the show a step or two toward respectability, but if it ever hoped to attain the class of, say, "The Newlywed Game," the Heisman production needed big-league help. Perhaps Olivier could read as Rockne. Neil Simon could create a game plan of wit and charm, starring Ann-Margret as Bear Bryant's wife.
But, no Thankfully, the Heisman people had a much better idea.
They killed the show.
As in its first 42 years, the 44th Heisman Trophy will be presented at a sedate news conference in New York's Downtown Athletic Club. This one goes off at noon today. The voting by 1,000 sportswriters and sportscasters across America is finished, and speculation has Billy Sims of Oklahoma the winner, followed closely by Michigan's Rick Leach, Penn State's Chuck Fusina and Southern Cal's Charles White.
It is easy to poke television in the ribs and say the videots took the proud and dignified Heisman Trophy and made it into a blond dancer with blue eyeshadow. More than we admit though, the television people know what we're thinking and why, and if they missed on the Heisman show, they didn't miss far, for college football is really silly.
Not that it needs to be. It simply needs to be what it is a big-time business, instead of sillily pretending it is sis-boom-bah and raccoon coats and win one for the Gipper.
As much as any coach, Penn State's Joe Paterno and Indiana's Lee Corso love the college game and keep an admirable athletic-academic balance in their programs. And both men know it is, as much as anything, a business. The Heisman, a symbol of the college game, ought to come with a dollar sign on its helmet.
Which brings us to the idea of a national championship playoff. Most opposition rests on the argument that the college season would be stretched too long, that a playoff series would disrupt classes, that it is, somehow, better to have unresolved debate about who is No. 1 than to have a champion declared on the field.
Mostly, though, there are bleatings about "loyalty" to the established bowl games. Coaches and administrators speak of the bowls as if they were marriage partners. In reality, they are business partners and it is not "loyalty" at stake, but millions of dollars. The schools fear a playoff series would dry up those sources of money.
Paterno and Corso don't think so.
They have proposals for a national championship playoff that would create tremendous interest in college football, which in turn translates into tremendous money. Paterno even has a plan for the money.
Corso's Super Saturday: "I'd take nine coaches and nine sportswriters from different sections of the country and have them vote on which two teams would play for the national championship on Super Saturday.
"They'd play the Saturday a week before the Super Bowl and they'd play in the same town.
"No tournament, no playoffs - just one game between the top two teams. In the last five or six years. It's always come down to just two teams.
"Last year, no question, it was Notre Dame and Alabama. They should have played for the national championship. There might be one or two guys who would bitch about it, but the hell with that. [Among the complainers would have been Texas fans, whose team was the only regular-season unbeaten club.]
"Super Saturday. That's it. You don't mess around with the bowl games that have been so good to us."
Joe Paterno's Big Idea: "I'd get a committee of 18 or 20 coaches and different people who knew college football. And after the bowl games are over, they'd pick four teams.
"You'd pay each of the four teams $250,000, say, for each game in the playoff. No more. If the games were an awful lot of money, some people might do anything to get into them.
"Then you'd take all the profits - all the television mony, the tickets, the concessions, everything - and put it in a development bank kind of thing. A foundation, maybe. Something with a board of trustees that would invest the money. And you wouldn't touch any of that money until there was, maybe $50 million in the bank.
"From a football playoff, you might realize $5- $6 million a year. Let's just say we'd average $4 million for the first five years. That's $20 million. With investments, with interest, that's $30 million in only five years.
"And all that money is there to be used by college athletic departments all across the country. For something like the Evansville thing [the university's basketball team died in an airplane accident], you could make an outright grant from the fund, give the m$500,000 to get started again.
"Or say a small school needs a facility. It can get a loan at no interest for five years, then pay 4 or 5 percent after that. It would just make it easier for everybody to do what they need to do.
". . . It's a big idea, sure, and it would take tremendous work to get it done. But I'm a little screwy. I hate whiners. I'm a guy who wants to do something about it. Use your brain, use your ingenuity."